I just got home from an awesome three days at Warrior Conference held at the Camp by the River in Chautauqua Ohio. The experience was moving, emotional and powerful. Me and about 150 other men all together to do one thing, learn how to be Warriors for Christ our Lord. I took away a lot of lessons from those three days and I wanted to share just a few with you.
I want to first thank Pastor Lonnie Snell of New Life Chapel, my home church, for putting on such a great event. Not only from execution but from conception. I didn’t want to just do a recap of the sermons I listened to while there, you’ll have to register for next year’s event if you want that kind of experience. But I did want to correlate other feelings I had with the sermons that were given. Each Pastor had a unique and powerful message and I wouldn’t do them justice by trying to recreate that in a blog. So here we go, please enjoy, and as always, like, share, comment.
Warrior Conference 2017
I knew a guy once who invested a million dollars into a company that made a machine that would clean out old muscle car engines. You would hook up this machine and it would flush out old oil and somehow restore the engine to new. They sold thousands of these machines only to have them all returned. The problem wasn’t that the machine didn’t work, it was that it worked too well. In those old engines, there was gunk and build up that would actually plug small holes in the engine and keep it from leaking. When they were cleaned all the small holes, cracks, flaws would start to leak and the engines would literally fall apart. The only thing holding those old work horses together was the gunk that got build up.
I thought about this while listening to an awesome story from Pastor Justin Swartwout from City Hill Church in Cincinnati, www.cityhill.cc. Talking to a group of men at the Warrior Conference he told a story about a fast car. Like a fast car the Church needs to be driven hard because that’s what it was built for. The Church isn’t a Prius, it’s a Camaro SS, and you must let it out and let it become what it was meant to do.
He was talking about a brand-new Camaro but in my mind a pictured a classic 1967 Camaro, candy apple red with black racing stripes. The kind of car that growls when you press down on the gas and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. I imagined myself behind the driver’s seat racing down a quarter mile drag strip. And then I imagined myself as the car itself.
I think of myself as an old classic muscle car. But just like that car I have a lot of gunk and build up that’s plugging the holes that keep me moving. In the car the gunk is oil, in my gunk it’s hurts, addictions, hang ups, sins. But just like that engine those things are supposed to be there, they hold it all together, they make things run smooth. You clean them out and I’ll start to leak.
Romans 5:3-5 “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” I think the gunk in my life is character. God wants me to rejoice in the fact that I have been through some stuff and it’s build up in me like the sludge of an engine and it makes me pour my heart out even more.
So many times we try to clean out what God sees as character. God is in the middle of it all, he knows everything about you. The more transparent we are about what’s in us then the better we will be equipped to share our testimony.
And like the story that Pastor Justin told, we’re meant to be ran hard, peddle to the metal, opened up all the way. But if we’re too afraid to embrace the past that gave us the character and experience to bring the word, then it’s all lost. I have a close friend who shared his testimony in a private group I’m in only to take it down after he got some negative comments on his life experiences. It made me mad and frustrated that anyone would make another person feel bad for mistakes they made. But when you see Jesus more in your life you will open yourself up to that kind of criticism. I look at Peter and the other disciples and we have no idea what it is to be persecuted. So, to that I say, let the world see the gunk in my engine because it’s not going away, it’s not getting cleaned out and it’s making this old engine run like a beast and if you don’t like it, get out of the way because once this thing opens up I have no control over the power it possesses.
Another take away.
I was fishing with a friend of mine, Chris “Catfish” Buerger. His nickname is literally Catfish, so needless to say he was a more experienced fisherman than me. I had these silly orange plastic worms I bought from the store. I cast out and stood on the edge of the Miami River at Camp Chautauqua, www.thecampbytheriver.com, and waited for something to grab my bait. Chris on the other hand went off into the woods and started looking for night crawlers. He came back after about five minutes, put a live worm on his hook and cast out into the river. Not even thirty seconds later he reels in a foot-long catfish. Me with my plastic worm stood in amazement of Chris who took his time and used live bait and caught fish after fish. I didn’t catch a thing, all week.
The last morning of the Warrior Conference we listened to Pastor Matt Roller of Indianapolis Baptist Temple, www.indianapolisbaptisttemple.com, talk about being broken. How God uses broken people to reach broken people. I thought about this in the context of fishing with Chris. My “phony” bait was no match to his “live” bait when it came to fishing. And like in Matthew 4:19 “And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The analogy seemed obvious.
But there was something I was missing. In the use of live bait, the bait must die to catch the fish. Wow, that’s it, Mark 8:35” For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” To be the fisherman I want to be, I must be willing to die in order to live for Jesus. And once I have I will cast my line with live bait not imitation.
This seems deep but it’s really simple. If you go out and try to catch men by acting like God has never broken you then you’re not going to catch anything or anyone. If you humble yourself and know that God is working though you and all you need to be is a witness, then you will catch more than you could imagine.
Three things that Pastor Matt highlighted that I can’t miss. What’s next?
- Wait with expectation. Cast my live bait with the expectation that God is going to work through me.
- God will empower you. I need look no further than the bible to find the tools I need, my rod, my reel, my hook. All I need to do is add the bait.
- Be a Witness. God has broken me, read my baptism story to find out how, and I must die to the world to live for him and use that to fish for men.
And One More.
We saw a lot of awesome things happen at Warrior Conference this year. One of the greatest moments was to watch a man from Pastor Tim Seidler’s church, The Experience Church in Bridgeport Ohio, www.theexperience.church, come forward during the alter call. I didn’t know this man, I met him briefly the night before while serving dinner, but I didn’t know him know him. He had tattoos, which you know I liked, down each arm all the way to the fingers. He wore a biker’s jacket and looked, well, like a biker. And well, to find out, he was a biker. Long story short, there was another guy who came to the alter call from New Life, a co-worker of a very close friend of mine. When Andre made his way up to the alter I was a crying mess, and when I looked back I saw my friend Bryan (Andre’s co-worker) in the same state.
Here’s when it got good. After Pastor Lonnie Snell, of New Life Chapel in West Chester Ohio, www.newlifechapel.net, got done praying over them Andre and the biker embraced in this unified “Hey look, we’re both saved” hug. Andre is an African American big lovable dude and this guy is a tatted-up biker from West Virginia. And when I saw them together unified under one God I thought to myself “This is what Heaven will look like.” There will be many people of many colors all praising God in unison. Because in the eyes of our father we’re all equal.
Josh 7:24 “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” That day it didn’t matter. All things were made new for those men. It was a great feeling and it was a powerful day. We ended the session by praying for the Pastors of each church represented at the Warrior Conference. 150 men with outstretched arms towards their Pastors. The emotions were real, they were genuine, they were awesome. God showed up in a big way at Warrior Conference and to quote Pastor Tim “When Jesus shows up help shows up!”
Thank you again to all the Pastors and all the men who attended. The power of God radiated through every single man that was there. I can’t wait until next year.